We need to change how we bury the dead

We need to change how we bury the dead


When I say “funeral” this is probably
what you think of, right? The cemetery, the casket, the gorgeous floral
arrangements. Vin Diesel stylishly going two buttons undone
on the dress shirt. But what if I told you that other than Dominic
Toretto’s effortless style, this was probably the worst way you could
dispose of a body? This traditional casket in the ground method
most of us are used to is what journalist Mark Harris calls a “modern
burial.” And that is the chemical embalming of the
remains, the burial of the body or the placement of
the body into a metal casket, and then the placing of that casket and embalmed
body in the bottom of the grave that we call the
burial vault. So that’s pretty much the American way of
death. Aside from being a great name for a novel, the American way of death actually turns out
to be pretty terrible. The average cost of modern burial runs on
average from $10,000 to $12,000. Although you can talk to families who will
tell you they paid a lot more than that. In many cases, a lot more. This KISS casket alone will set you back seven
grand. No word on if the amps are included though. The funeral industry has also been known to
engage in predatory business practices, like selling vulnerable families add-ons and
services that they don’t need. They’ve also been the subject of a number
of class action lawsuits, including one for conspiring to fix the prices
of caskets at artificially high prices. “Modern” burials are also incredibly wasteful. The average grave site takes up 32 square
feet of land in a cemetery. And that’s just space. It uses a staggering amount of resources as
well. Which
almost sounds kind of fun right? Grill up some hotdogs, toss some diving rings
in for the kids to fetch. Not so fast. Formalin, which is the formaldehyde-based
preservative solution embalmers use, is incredibly toxic. OSHA deems it a dangerous carcinogen and strictly
regulates its use, and the EPA treats it as a hazardous waste. Embalmers experience higher levels of brain,
colon, and prostate cancer as well as leukemia. To embalm a typical body it requires 3 pounds
of this formalin solution and sends 120 gallons of untreated “funeral
waste” directly into the sewage system, including blood, water, fecal matter, organ
fluid, and carcinogenic chemicals, as well as whatever unknown diseases the body
contains. Okay cool, so modern funerals suck. But what are the other options? Well, let’s start with cremation. Countries all across the world cremate bodies. In Great Britain, 75% of people get cremated, in Switzerland it’s 85%, and in Japan that number is almost 100%. Two years ago, for the first time in this
country’s history, more Americans were cremated than buried and then pretty soon we’re going to hit
50% of Americans being cremated. For one thing, it’s a lot cheaper. A typical cremation costs around $1,400 compared
to the $10,000 to $12,000 price tag we mentioned earlier. (Again, a little more for that sweet KISS
casket.) Cremating a body also requires much less space, since there doesn’t need to be a grave. And it doesn’t require a swimming pool full
of formaldehyde either … sorry kids. You can also do all sorts of fun stuff with
your ashes like put them in fireworks, spread them in a National Park, or even turn them into a reef. But is it actually better
for the environment? So it sounds like cremation is better, although
it’s far from perfect. Is there no way to do this without hurting
the environment? Swedish scientists asked that same question
and developed something called promession. It’s a process where you freeze a corpse
in liquid nitrogen, rapidly vibrate the body so it breaks into
millions of tiny particles in just a few minutes, then freeze dry the particles and remove the
harmful metals leftover from your dental fillings. You’re left with a fine dust which actually
looks very similar to cremated remains. It solves most of the problems of “modern”
burial and cremation but unfortunately hasn’t been approved for
human beings yet. Another option is alkaline hydrolysis, where a body is put into a chamber which is
then filled with water and lye, pressurized, and heated up to about 320 °F. The body tissue is broken down in a process
that’s similar to natural decomposition, and dissolved to nothing but a skeleton in
about 12 hours. Damn, spooky. It’s more environmentally friendly since
there’s zero toxic emissions and it has about one-tenth of the carbon footprint
as a cremation. All that said, the simplest option might be
natural burial. A number of natural cemeteries have sprung
up across the country where unembalmed bodies are buried in biodegradable
containers, or sometimes nothing at all, and allowed to
decompose naturally. It’s inexpensive, natural, and can actually help preserve and restore
vulnerable land and wildlife. Not to mention it’s how humans have done
it for most of recorded history. No matter what the method, though, it’s
clear that we have to reform the way that we bury the dead. In less than a quarter-century 76 million
people in America alone will get to the average life expectancy of
78 years. If all those people were buried in traditional
graves, we’d need a cemetery the size of Las Vegas
to accommodate their bodies. The point is, we’re all going to die. The question is, what are we going to do with
all the bodies?

100 thoughts on “We need to change how we bury the dead

  1. I hate coffins and the thought of preserving the body. I just want to be wrapped in a cloth and buried so my body decomposes as fast as possible.

    Don’t get me going on crematoriums. What’s the point in burning coffins?

  2. Natural burials are the only way, it's ridiculous to spend resources in time of climate crisis to cater to the dead. They're dead. We need those resources for the living

  3. I like nature way showing the woven reed basket. But that will be made money of too and it looks like it would only be for the posh.
    The clip wasn’t a set. That was the former Duchess of Chatsworth.
    I would settle for the City paupers grave. That’s totally free. I have no family to bury me, so the local municipality will have my body sent with all the other dead of that day, driven to an open grave and go back to the earth.

  4. the old ways work best – natural burial
    that wicker basket made by hand (possibly by the family) looks great!
    perhaps an increase in wicker coffin manufacture industry is in order
    shop class for the youngsters???

  5. Me and my whole family is going to be buried in a small cemetery in North Dakota. My grandparents are there, my great grandparents are there, my great great grandma is there, aunts uncles cousins, and a bunch of old country friends of the family.
    a plot is free, there is plenty of space. Me and all my generation of my family, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, spouses and kids and grand kids could all be buried there with room to spare.
    Plus I inherit the church so I can take care of the cemetery….
    My plan is to get it to the point where I can have robotic lawn mowers that have a little house they recharge in. I can go out and sharpen the blades every spring and make sure it all is going smooth.

  6. Nature rewards evolutionary complexity. Humans, the most complex species, evolved an ability to digest the widest variety of plants and animals, need to be naturally recycled at a cellular level, preferably via less complex, evolutionary food chains, beginning mainly with the mycelium fungi in soil that breaks down elements, sequestering them accordingly to promote maximum biodiversity in an environment.

  7. I wanna survive for so long I will witness Armageddon as the angels is blowing trumpet I will be absorbed into energy of an astronomic planetary collision my flesh would vaporize in a few picoseconds I will be converted into plasma traveling at the speed of light

  8. Muslims still to-date do the classic way – I was there for my grandfather's burial a few years ago – where we simply just put the body in the hole. And let the natural phenomena take place. An older gentleman in Pakistan once told me as I was biting my nails and throwing it in the dust bin: "That every part of the human body is meant to be buried with the permission of God".

    I'd like to see what your research shows for a Muslim Burial.

  9. When I'm dead I either want to be chained too an iron ball and dropped into the ocean or be shot out into space

  10. Okay YOU guys are burying bodies in a wrong way….

    And btw, in my country – when you cremate the body you are not allowed to take the ashes. But cremation is 100% ecological so people should really be cremated then buried.

  11. I want to be naturally buried in whatever my backyard is, and I want a orange tree or a fruit tree of some sort to be grown over my body

  12. Am I the only one who just doesn't care at all what happens to my body? I mean if I'm dead anyway, it doesn't make a difference to me

    Throw me into the next hole, dissect me, use me as a Horror movie prop if you want

  13. In muslim we dont use coffins. The body is wrapped with white material and buried. As time goes, the body dissolves and serves as a source of minerals for earth. So simple. Westerners make a problem even from such a simple thing

  14. I want a natural funeral. Just put me in the ground right away, or dump me in the ocean. Either way I want my body to go back into the food chain ASAP.

  15. Is that last one ? And the most better one ? How Muslims and Jewish people bury their people ?
    And after 100 years that land once again can be used to busy another person .

  16. You guys can check out the arab way..
    They bury their dead the natural way+ you can bury another in the same place after at least 5years ( when its completely dissolved)

  17. Fear God & he will take care of you God allowed Methuselah who leave on earth for 969 yrs
    In God nothing is impossible 🙌

  18. Now hear me out…. you ever watched Judge dread and they had a The Meat wagon? Soylent Green? we can reduce the carbon footprint and feed people. Also, make organ donation mandatory. people are dying and you are not going to need those organs anymore.

  19. just do the muslim way of burials. just bury the body back to the earth with no coffins or boxes and preach prayers then ur done.

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